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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/78

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Studies in Socialism

to give the death-blow to the feudal system, the Revolution tended to simplify and not to complicate property relations. It freed industrial property from the binding complications of the guild system. It freed agricultural property from the enormous entanglement of feudal and ecclesiastical dues. The bourgeois and the peasant were more distinctly, more absolutely owners, than they were under the feudal régime; and at that time, during the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the apparent simplification of property was a sign of human progress, just as, twelve centuries before, the complication of property had been a sign of human progress.

I read with absorbing interest the excellent work recently published by Giard and Brière, in which M. Henri Sée traces the history of the rural classes and the régime of the great landed estates in France in the Middle Ages. He brings out forcibly the changing complexity and perpetual transformation of property.

"It also appears to be certain," he says in his conclusion, "that in mediæval times men had a conception of property distinctly different from the one with which we are familiar. We see, at one and the same time, rights over the land exercised by the overlord, the vassal, and the tenant. The peasant who inherits his rights of tenure may be in a certain sense considered as a proprietor; if the rights of the lord were removed, the land he cultivates would belong to him with-